Abigail Blue, 17, of Meridian and Katie Skarpnes, 12, of Caldwell were named Idaho's top two youth volunteers of 2013 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Blue was nominated by Mountain View High School in Meridian, and Skarpnes was nominated by Vallivue Middle School in Caldwell. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 18th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Blue, a senior at Mountain View High School, has worked through a number of organizations to promote understanding and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, and to provide support to LGBT youth. She took a leadership class sponsored by Planned Parenthood and began volunteering for the organization. Soon, she started doing office and community outreach work with Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS. When she learned about the Gay-Straight Alliance, an anti-bullying group, she helped organize a chapter at her school and is now president. Recently, Blue worked with students from other schools and the Idaho Safe Schools Coalition to bring more than 200 LGBT together from all over Idaho for a night of games, activities and mutual support. She also helped make an anti-bullying video and assisted with a writing workshop that encouraged LGBT students to share their life experiences.
Skarpnes, a seventh-grader at Vallivue Middle School, has been an energetic and committed volunteer at her school, dance studio, church and 4-H club.
When the instructor at her dance studio needed help, Katie offered to become her assistant. At school, she managed the uniform selection process at the beginning of the year, tutored other students and worked with her leadership class on volunteer projects before and after school. She jumped at the chance to play a leadership role in her church's vacation Bible school after learning that its teachers were overwhelmed. And she assisted her 4-H leader at meetings and took care of barn animals at 4-H exhibits.
As State Honorees, Blue and Skarpnes each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C.
The program judges also recognized two other Idaho students as Distinguished Finalists:
Kyle Ashby, 16, of Boise, a junior at Bishop Kelly High School, co-founded "Friends Through Books" with her sister in 2009 and has since raised more than $30,000 and provided more than 25,000 books to students in the Caribbean island of Carriacou.
Carl Breidenbach, 18, of Boise, a senior at Timberline High School, coordinated a riparian restoration project that stabilized a popular recreational access point along the Boise River.
Jeremy Vanderpool, Nampa, a Northwest Nazarene University business student, received $5,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation to conduct research on economic freedom. Vanderpool will begin research this semester and will travel to Europe during the summer to gather data.
The Charles Koch Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Charles G. Koch established this foundation in 1980 to advance social progress and well-being through the study and advancement of economic freedom.
Vanderpool's research will focus on the question: What, if any, effect do church poverty programs have on economic freedom? The research methods are still in the beginning stages of development, but Vanderpool. a junior economics major, hopes to find a relationship between the amount of charitable giving and the levels of economic freedom in a geographic region.
Europe was selected for its diverse collection of religious and governmental institutions in close proximity. The results of the study can then be applied to local programs.
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